A South African industry expert has reported that broadband services rollout delays in South Africa are due mainly to the licensing the exclusive use of spectrum by a single market player. A hampering effect, especially in rural areas, causing a ripple effect by preventing the effective and efficient use of the high-demand spectrum to support modern telecommunication networks.
Presently, the 700MHz to 800MHz band, which is used for analogue broadcasting, allows efficient use of Long-Term Evolution (LTE) broadband infrastructure and coverage across various areas, including rural regions where it is not feasible to deploy technologies such as 5G. Nevertheless, the continuation of analogue broadcasting has meant that mobile operators cannot rollout LTE infrastructure until digital migration is complete, said Klein.
Africa’s outdated method of exclusive licenses for spectrum bands means that two out of three towers are operated by independent tower operators and not network operators, meaning that mobile network operators act as a middleman in the value chain. Better network infrastructure is needed. At this stage, the regulator assigns the spectrum on an exclusive use basis, and the spectrum cannot be traded.
Leon Louw, the Founder and President at Free Market Foundation (FMF), echoed Klein’s sentiments, noting that an impact assessment study which the organisation carried, indicated that South Africa needs a more flexible spectrum policy and allocation and that spectrum resources and bands need to be tradeable and shareable. Digital Migration needs to be completed for the benefit of the country, Louw added.